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Wat Ounalom, Phnom Penh

Wat Ounalom, Phnom Penh

Updated: 2017-07-02 10:10:01

This wat is the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. It was founded in 1443 and comprises 44 structures. It received a battering during the Pol Pot era, but today the wat has come back to life. The head of the country’s Buddhist brotherhood lives here, along with a large number of monks.

On the 2nd floor of the main building, to the left of the dais, is a statue of Huot Tat, fourth patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism, who was killed by Pol Pot. The statue, made in 1971 when the patriarch was 80 years old, was thrown in the Mekong by the Khmer Rouge to show that Buddhism was no longer the driving force in Cambodia. It was retrieved after 1979. To the right of the dais is a statue of a former patriarch of the Thummayuth sect, to which the royal family belongs.

Seek out the stairway to the left behind the dais. It leads up to the 3rd floor, where a glass case houses a small marble Buddha of Burmese origin that was broken into pieces by the Khmer Rouge and later reassembled. There are some nice views of the Mekong from up here.

Behind the main building is a stupa containing an eyebrow hair of Buddha with an inscription in Pali (an ancient Indian language) over the entrance.

This pagoda lies in front of the Tonle Sap River. The Royal Palace is also quite close to the wat. The area features a pleasant ambience where tourists can take a stroll. Now this pagoda serves as the headquarters of the Cambodian Buddhism.The Wat Ounalom or the Ounalom Pagoda can be regarded as the most important pagoda in all of Phnom Penh, since it is the headquarters of the Buddhist patriarchate of Phnom Penh and was also the home of the Buddhist Institute and library until 1999. Wat Ounalom was one of the five initial monasteries to be built in Phnom Penh, way back in the year 1422 during the reign of Ponhea Yat. Before 1974, the pagoda housed over 500 Buddhist monks and also the library of the Buddhist Institute which had a collection of over 30,000 titles. The library was unfortunately destroyed with many other buildings during the years of the Khmer Rogue. The Institute is now re-established and was moved to the Sihanouk Boulevard, where it enjoys a much larger area.

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